Susan is Rooted in the Community

December 2, 2021
by Clay McQuerry, Executive Director at Rebuilding Together Kansas City

Susan planted most of the shrubs and trees around her home in Kansas City. They’re tall now, and she couldn’t be happier to be able to stay in the home where not only her plants grew around her, but also her daughter graduated high school and went off to college.

I’ve known her since the early 90s when we were colleagues in ministry serving different churches in the Kansas City area. Susan is very connected to her home and the community. She is sharp and has amazing gifts of ministry. I’ve always admired her. With the health challenges Susan began to face several years back, she had to step down as pastor. I’m sure that was a very difficult transition.

Susan never envisioned getting “stuck in place” at home, though. Following a series of surgeries and a couple of setbacks from a serious reaction to a medication, she had to start using a wheelchair, making it difficult to navigate her home as it was. The once helpful low-rise, long-tread steps we--Rebuilding Together Kansas City--installed in 2010 when she was given a walker to help her walk no longer suited Susan’s needs.

I knew she just wanted to stay home; she didn’t want to move anywhere else. So, 3 years after installing those original steps for Susan—we returned to install a wheelchair ramp.

Beyond accessibility, though, there are many other factors to a home that are necessary to make it safer and improve the health of its residents. For instance, the presence of mold can cause a variety of respiratory issues, a physical hazard to those inside. Susan’s bouts with pneumonia and bronchitis made the hazard apparent. To afford removing the black mold in the basement, Susan’s daughter set up a GoFundMe account and raised the necessary funding for professional remediation. After the costly hazard was eliminated, the moisture problem itself needed to be addressed to prevent it from growing back again.

Rebuilding Together Kansas City coordinated a foundation repair, including the installation of an indoor French drain. Once we completed that work, the mold and moisture issues in Susan’s home were gone. We didn’t stop there.

On our annual Rebuilding Day in September, volunteers and skilled contractors swarmed “like ants on a cupcake” as Susan described, to her home to tackle minor roof repairs, yardwork, painting, fascia repairs and replace rotten boards on her porch. She was impressed with their care, making sure the dog didn’t get out and making sure her plants were not trampled.

Today, Susan’s home may be visibly very different from before but it’s still hers, the place where all of her memories remain. In a multi-year, multifaceted approach, Susan’s home was transformed and became a place where she was not stuck, but able to safely age in place.

“It’s not just a house you go to and sleep in, it’s the embodiment of your life.” – Susan Heim-Davis

I’m amazed at how Rebuilding Together brings neighbors together in such an impactful way. Sometimes, rebuild projects reunite those who knew each other well, as in the case for Susan and I, and other times it’s an opportunity to get to know your neighbors while solving significant issues alongside one another. I’m so grateful for how the entire community—both online through donations and in-person through volunteering—gathered around Susan, someone who has served the community for so long, to make her home safe and healthy. She has been on a radical mission of compassion and thanks to these folks, Susan was able to receive some of that back.

Every day I’m thrilled to have the chance to help neighbors like Susan. One of our main goals at Rebuilding Together Kansas City is to help people safely live in their homes, either through Safe at Home program or our Rebuilding Day program. I founded this affiliate in 2001, so we are celebrating 20 years of rebuilding lives by repairing homes. I am proud to be a [Re]Builder.